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One in a Dozen: Fear and a White Rose

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Roses are generally a lovely gift and a single rose more sweet than a dozen. Red roses symbolize love and romance while a white rose can symbolize happy love in a bridal bouquet. Yet for my friend, a white rose symbolizes fear.

Today, my friend told me about how she had just learned fear, something I already had known and been living with.

While on vacation, someone broke into her apartment, stole her DVDs and earrings (but ignored her VHS tapes) and left a single white rose and a note on her bed.

The note chided her for her behavior toward the writer, who signed with this first name only.

My friend became one of the one in 12 women in the United States who has sometime in her lifetime been stalked. For men, according to the same 1998 study by (U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs) National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statistic is one in 45.

Yet this doesn’t tell the full measure of how many men and women are stalked every year because: Another reason annual estimates of stalking victimization are relatively high compared to lifetime rates is that stalking, by definition, involves repeated and ongoing victimization. Thus, some men and women are stalked for months or years on end. Because some men and women are stalked from one year to the next, the average annual estimates of stalking victimization cannot be added to produce an estimate of the total number of men and women who will be stalked in two, three, or more years. Thus, average annual rates of stalking victimization will appear higher than expected when compared to lifetime rates of stalking victimization.

She doesn’t know whom her stalker. In most cases, I knew who my stalkers were–exs and men whose advances I had turned down. Statistically, this is the more common case. Yet even slight acquaintances can turn into stalkers and they tend to blame the woman/victim.

Most of the targets of stalkers are women. Men who were stalked were predominately stalked by other men (90 percent according to the same study). Some of the men who stalked other men were motivated by homosexual attraction.

Most states require imminent threat in order to prosecute a stalker so a stalker can follow you, call or email you and stare at you. This is only an annoyance. There is no legal recourse.

What is it in our culture that encourages men to stalk women? How does one live one’s life when one is or has been stalked without succumbing to fear? How many women don’t do things they want to do because of fear?

Traditionally, a white rose symbolizes unity, loyalty, reverence, humility, sincerity, innocence and a love stronger than death. It can mean spiritual love and anticipated hapiness, but for my friend it means fear and distrust because someone is watching and judging her and waiting to punish her for any real or imagined transgression.

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